Footage from Globe reporter captures exchange of gun fire in Parliament Hill building:
Police investigating the slayings of seven women whose bodies were found over the weekend said Monday it could be the work of a serial killer, and that the suspect has told them his victims might go back 20 years.
Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said at a news conference that the suspect is 43-year-old Darren Vann of nearby Gary, Ind., who was convicted of a sex offence in Texas in 2009. His confession to the slaying of one woman in Indiana led police to the grisly discovery of six other bodies, including three on the same block, authorities said.
He said the Gary slayings appear to have happened recently, though Vann indicated there could be earlier victims. He said police are not actively looking for more bodies and have no indication that any murders have occurred in another state. He said Vann is co-operating with investigators in the hope of making a deal with prosecutors.
“It could go back as far as 20 years, based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated,” Doughty said.
Charges were expected to be filed later Monday in the death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, whose body was found about 9:30 p.m. Friday at a motel, Doughty said. The Lake County coroner’s office said she was strangled.
Doughty said she was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website. Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy and “was provided suspicious text responses that she believed to be from the suspect while he was still inside the motel room.”
The discoveries began after Vann allegedly confessed to killing Hardy, then told investigators where more bodies could be found in abandoned homes in Gary, a deteriorating former steel town about 30 miles southeast of Chicago, police said.
A second body was found Saturday night in an abandoned home in Gary. The coroner said family members identified her as 35-year-old Anith Jones, who had been missing since Oct. 8.
Five other bodies were found on Sunday in various Gary homes, said Doughty, who identified two of the women as Gary residents Teairra Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36. Police have not determined the identities of the other three women, including two whose bodies were found on the same block where Jones’s body was found on Saturday.
Police said they took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon after obtaining a search warrant for a home and vehicle in Gary,
Hardy’s mother, Lori Townsend, said police told her that Vann asked that she perform a certain sex act, and “when she said ‘no’ and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her,” she said, speaking from her home in Colorado. “This man is sick.”
Hardy graduated from high school in late 2013 and planned to go on to college to study music, Townsend said.
“She was full of life. She lit up a room with her smile and her beauty,” she said. “And she had a voice like a songbird.”
Gary, once a thriving steel town that’s known as the birthplace of Michael Jackson, has been struggling for decades. Its population has shrunk and its poverty rate hovers around 40 per cent. Thousands of homes are abandoned, many with weeds choking broken sidewalks — often on the same streets where other homes are tidy and well-kept.
One of the houses where police found a body was overgrown with trees in the front and there was trash strewn in the back of what looked like a falling down garage or shed.
Michael Tarm reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Tom Davies in Indianapolis and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.
The initial interview with SGT Dale Terry who found the remains contained the following:
“It was behind a vacant home, in a dried-up creek bed, Terry said he found a skull and bones, along with a pair of tight, dark-colored pants.”
Description has since been scrubbed:
From the Washington Post:
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Police on Sunday combed a narrow two-lane back road near an abandoned property in Albemarle County south of here, where searchers on Saturday found human remains thought to be those of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Graham, an 18-year-old from Fairfax County, vanished in the early hours of Sept. 13. Jesse L. Matthew Jr., a 32-year-old Charlottesville man with whom Graham was last seen, was arrested and charged in her disappearance, but the young woman’s whereabouts were unknown.
The remote location where the body was found was within three or four miles of the hayfield where the body of another missing college student was found in 2010. Both Graham and the second woman, Morgan Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student, disappeared late at night in Charlottesville.
Police on Sunday blocked off a three-mile section of Old Lynchburg Road near where the body was found as investigators scoured the area. For much of its length the road is unmarked and without shoulders, surrounded by woods that are turning amber, gold and crimson, and with houses set back from the pavement, several with white country fences. A tiny brick church sits at one end of the barricaded stretch, across the road from a cemetery with several dozen weathered tombstones.
The northernmost police barricade on Old Lynchburg on Sunday was at its intersection with Red Hill Road. From that point, Red Hill winds a little more than three miles to the northwest before it borders the 742-acre Anchorage Farm. It was there that Harrington’s skeletal remains were found.
The grim discovery Saturday of human remains on a stretch of road in rual Virginia has put Charlottesville residents on edge. Officials have not determined the identity of the remains.
Virginia State Police investigators said last month that the arrest of Matthew was a “significant break” in the Harrington case and provided an unspecified “new forensic link” in the quest for her killer.
The remains found Saturday were discovered by a sheriff’s deputy searching an abandoned property, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said. A conclusive identification has not been made and the remains were sent to the Virginia medical examiner’s office for forensic testing.
Longo said Graham’s family members had been notified. They have not commented on the discovery of the remains. Authorities also called off a search for Graham planned for Sunday, saying they would focus on identifying the body.
Student council president Jalen Ross helped organize a vigil on the U-Va. campus that attracted hundreds of students. Ross and others at the event, which occurred five days after Graham was last seen, spoke about the missing sophomore in the present tense. Now Ross said that the student council was planning a memorial for Graham to provide a central place on campus for students to honor her.
In the weeks after Graham vanished, the church kept its doors open for students distressed by the sophomore’s disappearance. Warren said the church has helped students find solace in prayer and passages of Scripture. In recent days, Warren said, she has been drawn to Psalm 139, which explores the constant presence of God even in the worst of times.
“Whither can I go from your presence?” Warren said Sunday, quoting the psalm’s first verses. “You might not know what that presence feels like. But that does not mean you are abandoned.” She began Sunday evening’s service with a moment of silence for Graham.
At U-Va., Graham participated in an alternative spring break as a freshman, volunteering to spend long hours rebuilding homes destroyed by tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She was known as a central figure in the college’s ski club.
Matthew, who had worked as an orderly at the U-Va. hospital, has been linked by DNA evidence to the investigations of two violent crimes: a sexual assault in Fairfax City in 2005 and the abduction and slaying of Harrington, police have said.
In addition, two Virginia universities that Matthew attended between 2002 and 2003 said he was implicated in sexual assault cases. Both women declined to press charges against Matthew, and he was not convicted of any crime connected to the allegations.
Graham spent the evening of Sept. 12, a Friday, drinking and socializing with friends near campus before going out about midnight. By 1 a.m., she was seen wandering the Downtown Mall, about a mile and a half from her apartment. She sent messages to friends indicating that she was lost.
Police quickly focused on Matthew, searching his car and his Charlottesville apartment and eventually seeking a warrant for his arrest. Matthew was arrested Sept. 24 on a beach near Galveston, Tex., more than 1,300 miles from his apartment.
Fantastic. From the New York Times. My favorite part: “the derring-do of a crack Afro-Creole police detective versed in the latest “French” techniques — seemingly the first black detective in the United States to take part in a case that received national attention”
The voodoo angle turned out to be hysterical rumor. But as he read on, Mr. Ross, now a professor at the University of Maryland, discovered an all-but-forgotten story of a sensational investigation and trial that gripped New Orleans and the national press for almost seven months. “There were so many other twists and turns that I was hooked,” he said.
Those twists, recounted by Mr. Ross in “The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era,”published this week by Oxford University Press, include psychic consultations, a shadowy “House of Secret Obstetrics” and the derring-do of a crack Afro-Creole police detective versed in the latest “French” techniques — seemingly the first black detective in the United States to take part in a case that received national attention, Mr. Ross says.
Alfred L. Brophy, a historian at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said in an interview that at virtually any other moment, such a case would almost certainly have ended in a “legalized lynching.”
Beyond academia, Mr. Ross said he hoped his whodunit would add complexity to the public understanding of Reconstruction, restoring a sense of contingency to a period that is too often read as leading inexorably to Jim Crow.
That moment was certainly a fraught one. When Mollie Digby, the 17-month-old daughter of Irish immigrants, was reported to have been kidnapped by two African-American women on June 9, 1870, the case immediately became enmeshed in broader social and political tensions.
To the white press, it was more proof that Louisiana was descending into racial chaos under Henry Clay Warmoth, the Illinois-born radical Republican governor. But to the government, it was a chance to prove that a newly integrated and professionalized police force — 28 percent of New Orleans’s officers were African-American — would aggressively investigate crimes allegedly committed by blacks.
Graham, 18, of the Alexandria-area of Fairfax County, vanished in the early hours of Saturday Sept. 13. She was last seen by witnesses on the Downtown Mall with a man identified by police as Jesse L. Matthew Jr., 32, of Charlottesville.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said authorities must still make a conclusive identification of the remains. But he said police have notified the teen’s family. Authorities also said Graham’s case has become a death investigation.
“I want to thank everyone who gave up their days, their nights, their weekends,” Longo said of the search for Graham. “People who called, wrote and dropped food and good wishes and words of encouragement to the search groups and the detectives who work so hard through this investigation.”
“Today’s discovery is a significant development. And we have a great deal of work ahead of us. We cannot and we will not jump to any conclusions in regards to today’s discovery,” said Col. Steve Sellers, of the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office.
Police have said they linked Matthew’s DNA to the investigations of a violent sexual assault in Fairfax City in 2005 and the abduction and murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, in October 2009.
Matthew has also been identified as a football player who was accused of sexual assault at Liberty University in 2002 and transferred to Christopher Newport University, where he was accused of another sexual assault in 2003 before dropping out. The university investigations did not lead to criminal charges.
James L. Camblos III, the lawyer representing Matthew said he would await further information. “The police have located human remains and we will wait to see what the medical examiner says to see who it is,” Camblos said.
I can’t imagine the frustrations of law enforcement in dealing with a case like the disappearance of Hannah Graham / murder of Morgan Harrington / suspect in custody, Jesse Matthew: such a complex and emotionally charged problem.
In an interview with the Associated Press Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo stressed the need, ” as frustrating as it is… to be very careful to get it right, not to rush to judgment.”
What I can imagine is the frustration and confusion caused all too often when law enforcement sends mixed messages to the public. Last week we were told of the utmost urgency to leave no stone unturned. This week’s message from Chief Long is, “he wont rush Hannah Graham investigation”.
To be sure, this is a fast-moving process, and priorities are going to change. But police should be sympathetic to the public’s predicament:
- We are told to check everything immediately, but then asked not to rush.
- We are told that no tip is insignificant, then instructed not to bother the police with information that is not evidentiary.
It would be helpful if law enforcement could give the public some idea of the kinds of things they are looking for (what exactly might be evidence), but then of course they can’t because that could potentially compromise the investigation. The result is the police have to sift through a lot of irrelevant information, and both sides are left tired and frustrated.
While we wait, a couple of things I’ve observed don’t add up:
1. Place and time (video surveillance) link Graham to Matthew.
2. DNA links Matthew to Harrington.
3. The discovered black Pantera t-shirt links to Harrinton (DNA), so then possibly to Matthew.
The black Pantera t-shirt found on a bush outside an apartment building at the corner of 15th Street and Grady Avenue, reportedly was the one Harrington was wearing when she disappeare
The shirt was found 3-weeks after Harrington’s disappearance, spread out on a bush, logo up, as if it had been placed there to be discovered. Witnesses state they are certain it was never there in the weeks prior to discovery. And the location is in the heart of Charlottesville / the investigation plot points.
Something isn’t right here. This does not sound like what we’ve been told of Jesse Matthew. The placement of the t-shirt is a deliberate, calculated and bold gesture. Matthew, from all accounts, is reactive and impulsive. Either:
1. The t-shirt has no link to the Harrington disappearance, and therefore Matthew.
2. Matthew changed his m.o..
3. The police are giving the public bad information.
4. There are errors with some of the facts we have been told.
All comments and opinions are welcome.
VDEM spokesperson David Watson has stated that the nature of the search for Hannah Graham has changed since the original community search conducted two weeks ago. Original efforts following Graham’s disappearance were focused on finding a missing person, now search teams are now focused on finding evidence. Specially trained search officials are using canines to search outdoor areas.
If this is true, and professionals are now being called in to redo the efforts of volunteer community members, it could be that areas previously searched will need to be searched again.
This kind of work is so difficult. I recall being involved in a search of a wooded area back in 2005. This was in a rural area of Quebec where the body of a victim was found in 1977, and where two hunters thought they spotted clothing matching the description of what my sister was wearing when she went missing back in 1978. Albeit the search took place over 25 years after the events, we had less than a couple of acres to cover of dense woodland (the Graham investigation has targeted an 8 mile radius around downtown Charlottesville). There were about 25 of us over the course of 2 days. We found a lot but to this day I feel we were searching too far West, and therefore in the wrong spot.
What we found: A shovel, a purse, remains of a woman’s shoe, some other things. We sent it all to a forensics lab in British Columbia (the same lab that processed the recovery site in the Robert Pickton case): the results came up empty: no DNA evidence or forensic ties on any of it.
In my recollection – and don’t be too harsh on me, I haven’t Googled this – these mass searches rarely come up with anything evidentiary (the one exception I recall is the Molly Bish case in MA). It’s usually very much like the discovery of Morgan Hartington’s remains:
Theresa Allore = a muskrat trapper
Theresa Allore’s wallet = a farmer on a tractor
Sharon Prior = a farmer
Louise Camirand = two hunters
Having said that, LE should not stop what they are doing. The case is still relatively fresh: keep looking, keep asking for help.
Où est Hannah Graham? J’ai posé cette question par un certain nombre d’affiches. Donc, voici ma réponse, avec les réserves suivantes:
1 Je ne prétends pas savoir où Hannah Graham est. Ce n’est que mon avis. Et à en juger sur ce que j’ai vu jusqu’à présent? La police / FBI savent ce qu’ils font.
2 Je suis sur le point de briser la règle cardinale: Ne pas chasser les suspects. Cela dit, ce n’est plus sur chasse – ce que nous avons dit est – la preuve, pas suspects. Je vais donc éviter ce que j’observe beaucoup de sleuthies font: essayer de cerner tous les cas des personnes / assassiner non résolus manquante sur Jesse Matthew.
3 Pour les parents d’Hannah Graham et Morgan Harrington: Je sais ce que vous allez à travers parce que je suis passé par là. L’assassiner de ma sœur est un cas non résolu froid. Ma famille a vécu avec son être manquant pendant 6 mois. Votre approche en la matière est tout à fait raison. Lien avec l’autre, faire confiance à personne. Les familles éventuellement connectés dans le cas de ma sœur sont très proches (Prior, Monast, Dube). Nous espérons personne. Même le frère de Louise Camirand, qui préfère garder relativement anonyme: nous parlons lorsque cela est nécessaire. Et nous mettons en garde l’autre de l’écrou-emplois. (Pour en savoir plus sur ces cas, cliquez ici.)
Avec ces mises en garde, un peu plus:
1 Je suis une personne relativement saine avec une vie normale. J’ai un 9 à 5. J’ai 3 filles. Ma vie est riche et épanouie. Je n’ai pas besoin d’attention.
2 Je ne suis pas un enquêteur professionnel. Mon expérience vient de vivre avec une cold-case de 35 ans, et 15 ans d’étude en semi-professionnel les motifs de assassiner. Kim Rossmo – qui a inventé le profilage géographique – est un ami; nous avons travaillé ensemble sur le profil des meurtres en série au Québec, et il est toujours disponible pour moi en tant que confidente / consultant. Rossmo a passé du temps à la Fondation de la police à Washington, DC, et a consulté le FBI à Quantico, Virginie: Je serais surpris si elles n’ont pas encore consulté sur ces cas.
3. 15 années m’a eu accès à beaucoup de matériel; J’ai une bibliothèque de plus de 1000 photos de Québec photos de la scène de crime, je n’ai à peu près un accès exclusif à Québec fichiers froid cas (non, vous ne pouvez pas savoir ma source). J’ai souvent demandé des conseils sur les cold-case (pour le meilleur ou pour le pire). Parfois je “pense” mieux que l’application de la loi sur ces questions … c’est sans frapper à la police. Comme je le disais, j’ai 35 ans d’expérience.
4 Et, une fois de plus: je suis un papa. Je ne pouvais pas poster sur ce jusqu’à maintenant parce que je faisais le dîner. Mais je pense à ces choses parce que la nuit dernière ma fille aînée était à un concert jusqu’à 00h30: il est difficile de ne pas penser à ces choses.
Donc, avec cette longue introduction, voici ce que je pense #HannahGraham / #MorganHarrington / #JesseMatthew:
1. je pense que la police ciblent les bons domaines. Je pense que Hannah Graham est ouest ou du sud de Charlottesville. Je crois que c’est sur la base où Morgan Harrington a été vu la dernière fois et où elle a été trouvée (cette trajectoire), où Matthew est né et a vécu récemment, et parce que le Nord et l’Est sont plus urbanisée. Matthews a de l’expérience avec l’Occident (Harrington), et le l’Ouest et du Sud sont plus rural. Aussi, pour une raison quelconque, j’ai observé au fil du temps que les prédateurs ont tendance à chasser à proximité de leur milieu de vie, et de vidage du Sud. Ce n’est pas statistiquement significative, juste quelque chose que j’ai remarqué dans mon expérience.
2. Quelqu’un m’a demandé – si nous supposons Matthew est responsable de l’assassiner de Harrington et la disparition de Graham – étaient les sites d’enfouissement prémédité? Compte tenu de ces hypothèses, je dis Non, si nous prenons le compte de l’attaque de Jesse Matthew sur un pilote pour être vrai, il est très impulsif (considérer les 1.300 mile run à Galveston). Donc, un gars qui réagit, figure alors sur ce qu’il va faire plus tard. Pas de préméditation, mais à l’affût. Un prédateur opportuniste. Bien que je dirais qu’il a appris de l’expérience: impulsif dans le feu de l’action, mais au fil du temps, il a appris à mettre en place les éventualités.
I have been asked this question by a number of posters. So here is my answer, with the following caveats:
1. I don’t pretend to know where Hannah Graham is. This is just my opinion. And judging on what I’ve seen so far? The police / FBI know what they are doing.
2. I am about to break the cardinal rule: Don’t chase suspects. Having said that, this is more about chasing – what we have been told is – evidence, not suspects. So I will avoid what I observe a lot of sleuthies are doing: trying to pin every missing persons case / unsolved murder on Jesse Matthew.
3. To the parents of Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington: I know what you are going through because I have been through it. My sister’s murder is an unsolved cold case. My family lived with her being missing for 6 months. Your approach in this matter is absolutely right. Bond with each other, trust no one. The families possibly connected in my sister’s case are very close (Prior, Monast, Dube). We trust no one. Even the brother of Louise Camirand, who prefers to keep relatively anonymous: we talk when necessary. And we warn each other of the nut-jobs. (For more on those cases, click here.)
With those caveats, a few more:
1. I am a relatively sane person with a normal life. I have a 9 to 5 job. I have 3 daughters. My life is rich and fulfilled. I do not need attention.
2. I am not a professional investigator. My experience comes from living with a 35 year old cold case, and 15 years of semi-professionally studying the patterns of murder. Kim Rossmo – who invented geographic profiling – is a friend; we worked together on profiling the serial murders in Quebec, and he is always available to me as a confidante / consultant. Rossmo spent time at the Police Foundation in Washington, DC, and has consulted with the FBI at Quantico, VA: I would be surprised if they haven’t yet consulted on these cases.
3. 15 years has gained me access to a lot of material; I have a library of over 1,000 photos of Quebec crime scene photos, I have pretty much exclusive access to Quebec cold-case files (no, you can’t know my source). I have frequently been asked for advice on cold cases (for better or worse). I sometimes “think” better than law enforcement on these matters… that is no-knock to law enforcement. As I said, I’ve got 35 years of experience.
4. And, one more time: I’m a dad. I couldn’t post about this until now because I was making dinner. But I think of these things because last night my eldest daughter was out at a concert until 12:30 AM: it’s hard not to think of these things.
So with that long introduction, here’s what I think about #HannahGraham / #MorganHarrington / #JesseMatthew:
1. I think police are targeting the right areas. I think Hannah Graham is West or South of Charlottesville. I believe this based on where Morgan Harrington was last seen and where she was found (that trajectory), where Matthew was born and recently lived, and because the North and East are more urbanized. Matthews has experience with the West (Harrington), and the the West and South are more rural. Also, for what ever reason, I have observed over time that predators tend to hunt near their living environment, and dump South. That’s not statistically significant, just something I’ve noticed in my experience.
2. Someone asked me – if we presume Matthew is responsible for the murder of Harrington and the disappearance of Graham – were the dump sites pre-meditated? Given those assumptions, I say No. If we take the account of Jesse Matthew’s assault on a driver to be true, he is very impulsive (consider the 1,300 mile run to Galveston). So, a guy who reacts, then figures out what he’s going to do later. No premeditation, though on the prowl. An opportunistic predator. Though I would say he’s learned from experience: impulsive in the heat of the moment, but over time, he’s learned to put contingencies in place.
Well they’re all “tranquil academical villages in a bucolic settings”… until you scratch the surface.
Chapel Hill was just that when Wendell Williamson went on his shooting rampage in 1995. We certainly pissed-in-the-Lennoxville-party-punch when evidence suggested the burb of Sherbrooke, and home to both Champlain College and Bishop’s University, had a problem with sexual assaults on campus.
I feel terrible for the parents. Two weeks is a long time. From The Washington Post:
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Orange ribbons adorn lapels and backpacks throughout the campus here known as the Grounds, a reminder that the University of Virginia yearns for the return of sophomore Hannah Graham three weeks after she vanished in the night.
Anxiety over what befell the 18-year-old from Fairfax County, believed to be a kidnapping victim, grips the U-Va. community even as officials redouble efforts to protect students and provide counseling to those in need.
It is a jarring moment for the elite public university that founder Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president, envisioned as a tranquil “academical village” in a bucolic setting.
The alleged abduction followed two other widely publicized crimes against young women that occurred around here in the recent past: the abduction and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, after she attended a rock concert at a U-Va. arena in October 2009, and the death of U-Va. student Yeardley Love, 22, when an ex-boyfriend attacked her in a drunken rage in May 2010.
Harrington’s case remains unsolved. Her body was found in a field 10 miles south of here in January 2010. But the arrest of Charlottesville resident Jesse L. “LJ” Matthew Jr., 32, on a charge of abducting Graham with intent to defile, provided what police call a “new forensic link” in the earlier case, a link two people close to the investigation say is Matthew’s DNA.
John and Sue Graham, the parents of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, released a statement Saturday begging for those who have information on their daughter’s whereabouts to come forward. (City of Charlottesville)
Now this school of 23,000 students — a point of pride for Virginia and regarded among the nation’s best universities — is enduring a trauma with an unknown end. Claudia Kuchler, 19, a sophomore from Centreville, said Graham’s disappearance Sept. 13 cast a pall over the Grounds.
“You could feel it in the air, it was palpable,” Kuchler said late last week. “There was a gloomy aura over everything.”
Parties were canceled, she said, including a birthday celebration for Kuchler’s friend Alana Ama, 19, a sophomore from Falls Church. Instead they joined thousands at a candlelight vigil off the iconic Lawn in the first week after their classmate vanished.
They stopped tuning in to social media after stories about Graham deluged the Internet, updates that felt overwhelming. The students — who, like Graham, live off the Grounds — also changed their routines. Once comfortable walking alone at night, they now go in groups and map out plans for bus or cab rides.
They are tending to the worries of students, with special attention to those close to Graham, such as members of the school’s alpine ski club. They extended hours at the counseling and psychological services center, and they are planning to add staff there to handle a spike in requests for help.
They added a fourth safe-ride van to a fleet that ferries students in the dark when buses aren’t available. They convened a group of 17 administrators and students to scrutinize safety from top to bottom. That means a fresh look at where on the Grounds a stairwell or a parking lot might need more light, where off the Grounds a landlord might be urged to install a surveillance camera, and what could be gleaned about safety procedures from urban schools such as Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
They also are seeking to reassure parents, alumni and the wider world that Charlottesville remains not only a premier college destination, but also a secure one. Like 78 other U.S. schools, U-Va. is facing federal scrutiny for its handling of sexual violence reports amid a national focus on sexual assault on the nation’s campuses. Last year, the university police force recorded 15 reports of rape or forcible fondling, according to a 2013 Clery Act report. Charlottesville police have investigated 28 cases of rape or fondling so far this year, according to city data. The school hosted a national conference on the issue in February.
“U-Va. is as safe as we can make it,” university President Teresa A. Sullivan said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We continue to try to learn ways that we can make it safer. We are learning all the time.”
Sullivan, who teaches a class on labor markets that ends at 6:15 p.m. in Madison Hall, said she is keeping an eye on the autumn dusk. As days grow shorter, she has told her students: “I want to be sure you have a good way to get home.”
The president of a school founded nearly 200 years ago, famed for its architectural grace, cautioned against “overly romanticizing the idyllic aspects” of the U-Va. setting. “Let’s be real,” Sullivan said. “There are incidents that happen.” Indeed, Sullivan organized a dialogue on campus safety in September 2010 within weeks of taking office. That event was prompted by the Love murder. But the conversation has never really stopped.
Before Graham disappeared in September, many students were nonchalant about safety, said sophomore Morgan Phelps.
“People think that they are invincible and that ‘bad things are not going to happen to me’ and ‘I’ll be fine walking two blocks home alone at night,’ ” said Phelps, 19, of Chesapeake, Va. She lives in the same off-campus apartment building as Graham. “An event like this has really opened our eyes.”
Graham’s disappearance “has made students more conscious and aware of the ways that we can look out for one another,” said Sara Surface, 20, a junior from Richmond who is active in a campaign against sexual violence called Hoos Got Your Back. “Now more than ever people are reaching out to their friends [about] how they can be there through this rough time.”
“You knew right away that something had happened, that it was bad and someone had died,” Groves said. The university’s student support team then mobilized in response to the death, standard practice for schools everywhere. Groves keeps a white ribbon pinned to the shade of a desk lamp in his office as a reminder of Love.
“We appeal to you to come forward and tell us where Hannah can be found,” the family said in a statement. “John has already said that this is every parent’s worst nightmare. That is true, but it is also a nightmare for our son, James, for Hannah’s grandparents and other members of our family, as well as for all of Hannah’s many friends here in Charlottesville and beyond. Please, please, please help end this nightmare for all of us. Please help us to bring Hannah home.”
Van Dyck, 20, who like Graham is from the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, and Pence, 21, of McGaheysville, Va., were with Graham in the hours before she was wandering the Downtown Mall and sending text messages indicating that she was lost and was looking for help. The two juniors were among the first to call police to report her missing.
“Whenever I hear a siren, it makes me hopeful that they could be responding to something for Hannah,” Van Dyck said. “But gaining closure would be a relief at this point.”
Van Dyck and Pence are edging back into the college routine. Van Dyck said that she’s beginning to pay more attention in class, instead of losing focus because of her worries about Graham, and that she’s once again sleeping through the night.
Students in recent days also have been sending thank-you notes to Charlottesville police and search-and-rescue teams working to find Graham. “Bring Hannah Home,” a message that her friends painted on the landmark Beta Bridge, still greets people walking to and from class. But as days pass, Axler said, the outlook appears more grim.
Lani Galloway, 20, a senior from McLean, was among a group of U-Va. students, including Graham, who spent last spring break helping rebuild homes after tornados hit Tuscaloosa, Ala. She said Graham showed poise with a circular saw and meticulous attention to detail. “She gave it her all,” Galloway said.